Sunday, October 4, 2009

Icecream, lemon honey, lemonade and alcohol

Always a good combination in my opinion, but this time it was the making of it, rather than the consuming of it. With a surfeit of lovely lemons, from a rather tired but excessively cropping lemon tree; for the last couple of months we have been making anything and everything we could out of lemons. I'm hoping that we can reduce the load on the tree before it flowers, to try and reduce the chances of biennial bearing. With such a heavy crop I'm pretty sure it will have an off year this coming season anyway, but if I can shift the balance a little, that would be good.

This is another one of those sad, neglected trees that has all sorts of noxious weeds sapping the life from the soil around it. This week I have cleared out about 3 barrow loads of wandering jew (or wandering willie for the more PC inclined - although seeing as there is no similar general frowning on the expression "dutch courage" I fail to see why wandering jew needs changing), a barrow load of arum lilies and black taro, some chlorophytum, some ladder fern and a bunch of dock. All from under this poor tree.

I have found the best way to deal with wandering jew is to attack it with the mower. If you can get the mower under the tree, set it low to the ground, set the speed on full blast and get ready to empty the catcher a lot. It makes brilliant compost, as it heats up within hours, effectively killing off any life left in the mushy mash of leaves and stems. This is the method I used to free up the plum trees over winter. For the lemon tree I couldn't do this as I had planted bromeliads around the edge about 6 months ago. There's a lesson in that, finish clearing before you start planting! Anyway, wandering jew pulls out easy enough, then I just scatter it over the lawn to be munched up the next time I mow. Or I feed it to the chooks who love it.

People seem to get all panicky about leaving the little pieces behind, which will grow again quite quickly. For this reason many garden experts recommend spraying with herbicides. The common herbicide Glyphosate struggles against this weed, even when a sticking agent is used, so often more aggressive herbicides are recommended. My advice is simple, don't! There is no place for herbicides in the home garden, aside from using glyphosate to clear a large area for a new garden (if I have time I prefer to use a sheet of roofing iron to kill the area off over a month or so before planting). Some herbicides have residual effects in the soil that continue to affect your plants for months or even years. Others such as Clopyralid based herbicides can continue to kill even after composting the residues or feeding them to animals. Check out this UK site to see how scary this can be for home gardeners, or this US site for more information.

Instead of resorting to chemicals for troublesome weeds like ladder fern, wandering jew, arums and the like, just haul them out, mulch them up with a mower and then cover the soil with a good thick layer of mulch, such as sea grass, bark, sawdust or similar. The pieces that you've missed, which will be a lot; will regrow. However as they grow through mulch, their growth will be lush, their root systems comparatively smaller and they are much easier to pull out. If you get them early enough they will come out entire, without leaving bits behind. Presto! After two weeding sessions, three at the most, you have completely eliminated that nasty weed from that area. You've also improved your soil by adding lots of organic matter.

Whoops, that got a bit off topic, where was I, Oh yes, icrecream and alcohol. To use up the lemons and our eggs, Angela has been making delicious lemon honey, but this week she's been laid up with an infected leg, so I got out the cheap Vodka (that line always sounds classy) and proceeded to make Limoncello. This Italian lemon liqueur is right up my alley, being alcoholic (of course), sweet and lemony at the same time. As a by-product I made a big jug of fresh lemonade which is so much nicer than the bought stuff and so much better for you.

I was about to make lemon icrecream as well, but got sidetracked and added frozen blueberries that we swapped in autumn at our local green swap. The icecream recipe was so easy; in one bowl, whip up 4 egg whites with 1/4 cup of sugar, in another bowl mix the egg yolks with another 1/4 cup of sugar, in a third bowl whip 300ml of cream. Chuck the lot into an icecream maker, or gently mix them together yourself with a spoon and as you're mixing add a couple of decent handfuls of partially thawed blueberries (or fresh ones or anything else that is in season). It makes about almost 2 litres of really delicious icecream that is completely free of stabilisers, colouring, preservatives, artificial sweeteners and thickening agents. I used our fresh free range eggs so it is even richer to taste. Ooh, just ducked out to the freezer to have a sample, it's good!


  1. I have moved my website Green Lane Allotments linked to in this post to a different system and I wondered if you would update the link on your blog. Our new web address is

    I still have lots of visitors reading about the problem and as the herbicide has been relicenced it is important to have information to hand in case the new stewardship is ineffective so hope you will continue to help make this information easily available. The manure pages link is

  2. Thanks for the update, this is still an important issue.